Monday, April 4, 2011

And Speaking of Money, and Health Care, and the U.S. as a Shining City on a Hill

That by-invitation-only charity banquet with the fabulous menu that featured one of the princes of the Catholic church in 2006?  I don't imagine I'd have been invited.

Because Steve is working right now on computing information for our taxes, and--yaay!--though I brought in quite a bit more income this past year than in the previous year, I still don't think it would merit an invitation to a banquet whose purpose is touching people for charitable donations.

It's vulgar to talk in specific details about money.  Suffice it to say, what I made this year is in the range somewhere below $20,000 and above $10,000.  It's a bit higher than the salary I pulled down when I started my career teaching in a Catholic school in New Orleans in 1972-73.

It's the same yearly amount Steve made for six years teaching at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans from 1985-1991, when the seminary's rector denied him tenure (after the faculty and students voted to tenure him) on the ground that he could no longer pay a layperson's salary--between $10,000 and $20,000, and not close to the latter.  And the following year, lo and behold, that seminary rector, who is now an archbishop, suddenly found funds to hire two priests to replace Steve.

It's a few thousand below the salary at which I began teaching at Xavier University in New Orleans in 1984, and at which I continued for a number of years until I completed my dissertation.

All this and no health insurance, too, right now . . . . 

And I'm not complaining.  With Steve's fairly good salary, we meet our needs, as long as we budget carefully, keeping in mind that we're losing money monthly paying the note on the house in Florida that we bought when a friend promised us jobs there up to retirement, and then reneged on that promise.  After the Florida United Methodist Church that owns the university that she heads split on the very day we came to Florida over the question of accepting openly gay members.  And after the UMC bishop of Florida, who led the charge against including gays at the last UMC General Conference, told this university president--so she told us--that he would not have approved of hiring us if he had known we are a gay couple.

I'm not complaining.  We have it better than a lot of folks.  We have a roof over our heads, good food to eat, the opportunity to travel sometimes, books to read, good friends and family members, relatively good health.  I have time to blog that I would not have if I were gainfully employed full-time.

Even so, I'm baffled at all those folks who think that living in the U.S. is living in a land of milk and honey and streets paved with gold.  As I move into my 60s with no health insurance and a patchwork income I put together any way I can each year, with dwindling retirement savings, and wonder what retirement will be like for the two of us, when we also face the struggles any aging gay couple in this country inevitably faces: I wonder.

What we mean when we say we're a shining city on a hill.  And the new Jerusalem.  And a nation uniquely chosen and blessed by God.  And a nation with the soul of a church.

I certainly found my six years of graduate study in Canada, when I had health coverage provided at no cost by the state system though I was an American citizen, refreshing by contrast.

P.S. Just in case it's necessary, I think I should add the following comment about the graphic for this posting: I don't envy those with extraordinary wealth.  To the extent I can imagine their lives, I wouldn't want that life for myself--not at all.  I chose the graphic I did to illustrate this posting to make a point that seems obvious to me, as the U.S. (and other nations) now debate how to deal with economic downturn and budget crises.  This is that the one question never on the table, which is nonetheless the central question to be asked about where developed nations have ended up socioeconomically, is this: why are the extremely rich increasingly allowed to shrug off the burden of helping to sustain the social networks of the societies in which they gain their wealth, while that burden is increasingly transferred to the shoulders of those at the bottom of those societies?

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